Two Reflections on Two Years: This Constant Reminder/ Beyond the Words, Behind the Numbers

Beginning Nov. 23, 2011, the two-year anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, Tinig ng Plaridel will be posting a series of personal narratives reflecting how we, the editors, have wrestled with the memory of the event. As recipients, students and future practitioners of media, this is our way of adding our voices to the call for justice, and our way of urging the public to demand a state that will nurture press freedom.


THIS CONSTANT REMINDER

By Sara Pacia, Web Editor

In this day and age, the Internet is what we know.

The Internet is the force that roots us to our seats: neck craned, backs arched, shoulders slumped. The body yearns for relief, but we cannot move now, not when our index fingers click and scroll faster than humanly acceptable. The eyes are also strained, squinting and blinking as they read “massacre,” “58,” “impunity” printed on dozens of articles and hundreds of posts.

The Internet is the black hole that devours the smallest bits of information, never letting it go. The mind cannot process the body count, that 32 of those murdered in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009 were media workers. We take in the details: the bodies, the bullets, the back hoe, the upturned soil, the fresh mounds of soil, the blood. Our stomachs churn while we try to process the images, the detailed accounts of open fire, of multiple gunshots per person, of rape before death. And deep down inside, we wrestle with our conscience, trying to understand how and why anyone can live with the knowledge of such acts.

The Internet is now a constant in our lives. It reminds us every day that such a crime has been committed, and that for every new status on Facebook is another moment gone without answers, without justice. It reminds us that trials will be slow, that we will all be dead and the gravity will be forgotten 55,000 years later when the verdict will have been reached.

The Internet is the future. But at the thought of our own futures, our guts twist and flip to the knowledge that someday, in a few years, those corpses might be us. Our imaginations run wild, wondering whether, if and when that happens to us, the courts will be swift, and justice will be served. But our expectations are shot down as quickly as they come, and our hearts ache for the families we might just leave behind.

In this day and age, the Internet can be a horrible place. As long as it exists, we as the next generation of journalists will never forget the horror that resulted from the greed and power of a single clan. We must live with this knowledge in our practice, to brace ourselves for our possible fate. But in its vastness, the Internet can also remind us of the ongoing efforts towards justice and peace, of the chants calling for the end of impunity and the photos that document the sweat on our brows as we march through the streets.

The past should be our constant reminder. But so should the promise of a better future. And maybe someday, the Internet will cease to inform the world of unfair deaths and suffering, and instead show us that after everything that has happened, justice can be served.

 

BEYOND THE WORDS, BEHIND THE NUMBERS

By Mikhail Flores, News Editor

The Maguindanao Massacre was carnage beyond imagination–no individual in his proper state of mind would order the murder of 58 individuals, including 32 journalists. The incident was beyond imagination, even comprehension, but it happened and it might happen again.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, but what happened in Maguindanao was a different case. It’s not just absolute power that corrupts absolutely: it is also the belief that power will not make one accountable for whatever crime he or she commits, no matter how heinous or gruesome the crime may be.

That is what happened in Maguindanao. This is the culture of impunity in our society.

But beyond those words are families. Those who have lost a father, a mother, or a child. Behind those numbers are individuals still thriving in poverty and living in fear.

Reynafe Momay-Castillo is still searching for her father, whose body has not been found to this day.

Myrna Reblando lost a husband who just became a regular reporter for a national daily.

Grace Morales became a widow and lost a sister on the day of the massacre.

There will be more killings if we allow this impunity to continue.

Hundreds of journalists have been killed since 1986, when democracy was supposedly restored and Corazon Aquino became president. Yet the killings have not stopped, even in the current Aquino administration. The killings continue, and will not cease unless the government takes action.

Isn’t it ironic that we call ourselves a democracy, yet this country remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the world, and we are not even at war? As long as the culture of impunity persists, more and more journalist killings could and might transpire. The Maguindanao Massacre is neither the end to it nor the beginning.

It has been 732 days since the massacre occurred. When will justice be in our hands?